“What do you mean, you haven’t been to an amusement park since you were ten!” Bitty looked up from his pie dough to stare at Jack incredulously.
“Well, that’s when I started getting serious about hockey, and it just wasn’t worth the risk of injury. Do you know how easy it is to break your arm on a rollercoaster?”
“I think a potential broken arm is worth it. Do you even remember what it feels like to go on a rollercoaster?” Bitty went back to his dough.
“Not really. I think it might be scary though.”
“A little, but they’re fun. Gosh, there was this one rollercoaster at the county fair down south, it made my cousin Timmy so sick every year, but he still insisted on going on it every time.” Bitty laughed to himself.
“You’re really not selling this to me very well,” Jack said. “They’re going to make me sick?”
“That wasn’t the point I was trying to make, but maybe? Not everyone gets sick on them. I’ll show you, one day.”
“I’m holding you to it.” Jack smiled at him before returning his attention to his book.
Bitty grabbed the cape from the counter, humming along to his music softly as he went to tie it around Jack’s neck.
“So, honey, your birthdays in a week, and you still haven’t told me what you want to do.” Bitty grabbed the spray bottle from the counter and began wetting Jack’s hair. Jack cringed.
“I hate this part.” He mumbled.
“I know sweetpea, I’m sorry. But seriously, what do you wanna do?” Bitty grabbed his comb and the scissors, took a good look at Jack’s hair, and made the first cut.
“I don’t know. You plan it for me.”
“Honey, I’ve planned your last three birthdays.”
“You do it better than I do,” Jack explained. “Besides, I don’t want to think about the fact that I’m turning 30. Bits, I’m going to be an old man.”
“You’re already an old man.” Bitty chirped. Jack made a noise of complaint and leaned away.
“Hey, careful! I’m the one with the scissors here, and I don’t think a bald spot would help with the old man image.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry.” Jack put his hands up and laughed softly. He met Bitty’s eyes in the bathroom mirror and smiled at him. It had been a few years since they had started dating, and a little over a year since they had gotten married, but Bitty was still sometimes taken aback at how Jack looked at him. The butterflies in his stomach still couldn’t handle Jack staring at him adoringly sometimes.
Bitty set down the scissors for a second so that he could grab Jack’s chin and pull him into a soft kiss.
“I love you.” He mumbled against his lips.
“I love you too.” Jack smiled at him. Bitty pulled back and grabbed the scissors again.
“Do you really want me to plan your birthday?” He asked.
“Yeah.” Jack smiled sheepishly at him.
“Okay, I’ll do it then. I’ll make sure you like it.”
“Of course I’ll like it. I trust you.” Jack said. Bitty kissed the top of his head, grabbed the shavers, and went to work on finishing Jack’s hair. He worked in silence, the only noise in the bathroom being the clippers and the music playing softly from the Bluetooth speaker on the counter. It was intimate in a way Bitty never thought he’d get to have. He let himself enjoy the moment.
“There you go!” Bitty smiled as he finished Jack’s hair. He stepped back to unplug the clippers as Jack got up. He reached over to snap the cape off of him and shook the extra hair out.
“Thanks, bud.” Jack smiled down at him.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll sweep. You just get in the shower, I don’t want to be finding Zimmermann hairs in our bed tonight.”
“You do realize that the blonde hairs all over our apartment are also technically Zimmermann hairs, right?” Jack raised an eyebrow at him.
“Oh, hush, that doesn’t count.” Bitty giggled and pushed him toward the shower, then walked off to find the broom.
He got lost in his thoughts as he swept the floor, and then went on to pick up the rest of the apartment. He wanted to do something good for Jack’s birthday. Something big. Something to make him feel young again.
He was on Facetime with Chowder the next day when he got the idea.
“I mean, I miss everyone on the East Coast, but California is where I was meant to be. I mean, Cait and I just bought season passes to Universal, Disneyland, and Knotts, and we’re close enough that it wasn’t even an unreasonable purchase!” Chowder smiled into the camera.
An idea popped into Bitty’s head. He thought back to a conversation he had with Jack a few months earlier, and his rapidly approaching birthday.
“Hey, Chowder? Which park do you think would be best to bring the whole group to?”
“Oh, Disney, totally! Why?”
“Okay so don’t say anything because I don’t know what I’m doing yet, but I’m planning Jack’s birthday. It was just an idea.”
“Oh! That’s so sweet! Let me know what you end up doing!”
“Anyways, I think I gotta hop off now. Cait and I need to leave for the doctor soon.” The door opened behind Chowder as he was talking, and Farmer stepped into the frame.
“Yes, we do. Bitty, be glad that you and Jack are gonna adopt. We practically live at the doctors. Also, hello!” She smiled into the camera.
“Hello, Farmer! And hello baby Marie!” He cooed, even though he knew the baby couldn’t hear him. “Farmer, she’s getting so big!”
“I know! 1 more month and she’s here!!”
“I’m so excited!” Bitty squealed. “Anyways, I’ll let you two go now. I love you guys!”
“We love you too!” Farmer waved.
“Bye Bitty!” Chowder said.
“Bye!” Bitty smiled at them before ending the call. He opened a chrome tab on his laptop and searched for hotel prices, as well as Disneyland tickets.
He took a deep breath and was very glad that both he and Jack were minor celebrities (with the salaries to match.)
He had some phone calls to make.
“Shits! Hey! No, no. We’re fine. Oh, thank you! Well, I saw a job listing the other day, Fenway High is looking for a new art teacher. You know, if she gets sick of teaching the 3rd graders fingerpainting. We both know she doesn’t like kids. Yeah. Uh-huh. Okay. Just bring it up with her, okay? I mean, she already has her teaching credentials. Mhm. Yeah. Oh! Yeah! I called to ask if you and Lardo could clear your schedules next week? Yeah, Jack’s birthday. I know! He always insists that I plan it, that boy. I don’t know, tell her to call in sick or something! She’ll figure it out. Okay, great, perfect! Love you too, bye!”
“Ransom! Hi! Oh, is Holster there with you? Hello boys! Oh! I can refer you to Jack and I’s wedding planner, she was amazing! Ugh, tell me about it. It’s so worth it though. I don’t know! It’s your wedding, not mine! We already did all that shit! Yeah, cool, okay. Oh, no, not at all! Anyway, I was wondering if you two could clear your schedules next week? No, for Jack’s birthday. Yeah. Sure! Get back to me, okay? Oh? No, that’s perfect! I will, don’t worry. Absolutely not, Mr. Oluransi! Okay, have fun at dinner you two! I love you both! Haha, okay, bye!”
“Dex! Oh no honey, are you okay? Oh, that’s good to hear, I was worried for a second. A pie? What kind? Chocolate cream, that’s your mama’s favorite, right? I knew it! Dex, if you really hate it then tell them you don’t want to do it anymore. Yes. I know. It’s easier said than done, but you’re a college graduate, they can’t expect you to move back home every summer just because they need an extra set of hands. Are you even getting minimum wage? Ugh, that’s annoying. Well, tell your uncle you won’t be there next week. No. We’re celebrating Jack’s birthday! You can do it, I believe in you! Hey, can you tell Nursey about this too, he won’t answer the phone. Dex, you don’t hate him, you talk to him more than any of us do. Thank you. Tell your family hi for me, okay? Love you too, bye!”
“My sweet baby boy, hello! Yeah! How is she doing? Oh, that’s great! Take care of her, okay? I know I don’t have to tell you twice. Well, remember when I told you about my plans for Jack’s birthday? Yeah! I was thinking we could fly in, stay with you guys for a night, then drive down the day after? Yeah. Uh-huh. Maybe? Oh, that's great! Are you sure? She’s so close to her due date, we’d all understand if you need to stay with her. Oh, it’s not that, you’re more than welcome, we all love you! Okay. But if she needs you for anything I will fly you back home myself, okay? Perfect! I can’t wait. Tell her that Jack and Bitty say hello! Good luck! I love you, goodbye!”
Bitty sighed and flopped down on the couch. It was still weird to think about how all of his friends were adults with their own lives. He never would’ve imagined them ever being so...grown up. He pulled open his laptop and booked plane tickets, hotel rooms, and park tickets. He couldn’t help but wince at the price, but had to remind himself that he could afford it. They’d be fine. He pointedly did not look at the total when he got a phone notification confirming his purchases. He shut his laptop and rolled over to take a nap. He loved his friends, but there were only so many phone calls one could handle.
They got some weird looks when they all met up at the airport. Bitty wasn’t surprised. Even if most of them didn’t actually play hockey anymore, they were still hockey boys at heart, with the mannerisms to match. After their greetings, Bitty fished all the boarding passes out of his bag and began passing them out.
“San Jose? Are we gonna be visiting Chowder the whole week?” Dex asked.
“Nah, just picking him up. He said Farmer was wanting to spend some time with her sister anyway. It just didn’t make sense to buy him a plane ticket when Anaheim is only about 6 hours away from him.”
“Anaheim? So we’re going to Disneyland? Or is there something else interesting there? I’m gonna be honest, the only thing I know about Anaheim is that they have Disneyland.” Holster said.
“Bingo.” Bitty smiled at him. “Now come on boys, we better get going if we wanna make it through security on time.”
Bitty was glad that he ended up making them show up to the airport a few hours early. Security was a hassle with all 8 of them. To make matters worse, Shitty was selected for random screening, and Nursey left his earbuds in his pocket when he went through the scanner, so he had to be pat-down. After they miraculously made it through security, they all decided they were hungry, and headed to the nearest McDonalds. Finally, they made it to their terminal, and sat, chatting among themselves as they ate their food. Bitty couldn’t help but smile. It wasn’t often that they were able to all get together as a group.
Surprisingly, the flight itself was pretty hassle-free. He supposed Jack was used to long flights, but the rest of them didn’t even complain for the 8 hours. They landed in San Jose with no problems and went to meet Chowder. They had rented a van for the week so that they would all fit in the same car, and they only had to wait a few minutes for Chowder to pull up. He waved at them excitedly, parked, and hopped out of the van to greet them all. After hugs and a lot more looks from strangers, they packed their things into the trunk and began getting settled for the hour’s drive to Chowder’s house.
“Oh, we’ve just been so excited to have you guys! Cait and I have been so busy preparing. We’ll have to eat dinner in the living room, there aren’t enough seats at the table for all of us, sorry! Cait’s sister is staying with us too, but Ariana is totally cool, don’t worry! Anyway, as far as sleeping arrangements go, we have a king bed in the guest room, a murphy queen in the nursery, a queen air mattress we can put wherever, and then the living room couch also has a full-sized hide-a-bed. Ari is on an air mattress in my and Cait’s room, so don’t worry about her.”
“Thank you so much Chowder, we know it’s kind of hard to fit all of us into a three-bedroom house,” Jack said.
“Oh no, don’t worry about it at all! It’ll be totally worth it! We’re happy to have you!” Chowder smiled at him through the rearview mirror.l
“Okay, so, how are we doing sleeping arrangements.” Jack addressed the group.
“Well, I think Jack and Bits should take the big bed, since the whole reason we’re here is to celebrate his birthday,” Ransom said. The whole team nodded their agreement.
“Shits and I can take the living room. Since I’m the smallest. We’ll fit best.” Lardo offered.
“Ransom, Holster, you two can take the murphy bed. I think you two would pop an air mattress.” Dex said.
“I want to be insulted, but you’re probably right.” Holster shrugged.
“Bro. You know what this means, right?” Ransom said.
“D-man bonding nights, the sequel.”
“Bro!” Holster and Ransom both turned to smile at Dex and Nursey.
“None of us are D-men anymore, do we really still need D-man bonding nights?” Nursey asked.
“The D-man bond is forever,” Ransom said, very seriously, while Holster nodded. “Do we have to bring out the PowerPoint?”
“You guys still do those?” Nursey asked.
“Yup.” Ransom smiled.
“Hockey Shit is also forever.” Holster said.
“Okay! Maybe not right now, while we’re all crammed in this van.” Bitty said. The group laughed, and chatted amongst themselves for the rest of the ride.
Farmer and her sister were sitting on the porch when they pulled up. They all piled out of the car, and Ariana was obviously more than a little shocked as they emerged. Farmer, unphased, gave her greetings and smiled as they all obsessed over her baby bump.
Dinner was amazing. They had ordered catering from a local taco place, and sat in the living room, talking as they all ignored whatever TV show was playing in the background. Bitty even managed to slip away to make a couple of pies. (He made a blackberry one as he knew it was Farmer’s favorite and hid it from the boys. He’d text her about it after they had left.)
By the time he was crawling into bed with Jack, he was feeling very happy. He tucked himself into Jack’s arms and sighed happily.
“I missed this.” He mumbled into Jack’s chest.
“Yeah. The Falcs are all great, but it isn’t quite the same, you know? It’s been a little weird ever since Tater got traded.”
“Yeah.” Bitty hummed in agreement. “Maybe you should see if the Canucks would take you after your contract is up with the Falconers. Might be nice to play on the same team as him again.”
“Maybe? I like it on the East Coast though. The Pens might be fun. I don’t know, I really do love it in Providence.”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” Bitty leaned up to kiss the bottom of his chin. “We really should get to sleep now.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. Goodnight, sweetpea.”
Leaving was an event. Putting all the beds away was chaos, and there was a huge stack of sheets in the laundry room, waiting to be washed. Bitty made pancakes, and if he closed his eyes it almost felt like he was back in the Haus kitchen. They sat in the living room again, talking and laughing. Once all their stuff was finally loaded into the van, they said their goodbyes to the girls, and then went to all pile in the car. Lardo somehow managed to get shotgun, despite being the shortest of them all. Bitty sent Chowder GPS directions to their hotel, and then they were off.
It was incredibly reminiscent of a roadie. They pretty quickly got into an argument about whether or not it was weird to drink milk on its own, and Chowder had to pull his goalie face to get them to stop. Bitty couldn’t help but giggle. As much as things had changed, they really did stay the same.
Checking into the hotel itself was a non-event. Bitty had booked 4 rooms, each couple getting their own queen, and a king for all the frogs to share. They had a few hours to relax before their dinner reservations. Their server at the pizza restaurant had asked for Bitty’s autograph, but it was obvious that she was no longer star-struck toward the end of the night. Bitty gave her an extra big tip and apologized personally for them all being so loud.
Then they all went to bed, set their alarms, and it was time for the big day. Bitty had gotten them dual park passes, and Chowder babbled excitedly about all his favorite rides as they drove to the park. He was the only one that had recently been to Disney, so Bitty had trusted him to plan out their day.
They made it through security with no problems, and Chowder waited in line with them as they went to grab their tickets from the booth. As soon as they made it into the park, he grabbed the hands of the two people closest to him(Lardo and Nursey) and began dragging then toward Tomorrowland. Bitty noticed they were walking off, and quickly gathered the group to follow.
“Sorry guys! If we don’t get fast passes for Space Mountain now we’ll be waiting in line 4 hours!” Chowder called over his shoulder. They made it to Space Mountain, scanned their tickets, and were off again as soon as Chowder ensured they all had safely tucked away their passes.
“Pirates of the Caribbean! The line is really quick in the morning!” Chowder said, leading them through the park and into the line. True to his word, they were only in line for about fifteen minutes before they were being seated. Bitty looked over at Jack, who seemed nervous.
“Honey, you doin’ okay?” He asked, reaching over to grab Jack’s hand.
“Just a little nervous.”
“Don’t be.” Bitty smiled at him. “This is a calm ride.”
“Okay. I trust you.” Jack leaned down to give him a quick kiss, and then they were off. Jack pointed out the animatronics and wondered out loud about how they worked.
“Of course that’s what you would take from this.” Bitty giggled. “Just enjoy the ride, Jack.”
And he did. Once they were off, Chowder led them to Haunted Mansion, which Jack also loved. After that, it was time for them to go redeem their fast passes.
“Okay, this one’s a fast one,” Bitty said as Chowder began setting up heads up on his phone. Despite their passes, the line was still about an hour long. “If you hate it, we can go off and do our own thing while they all go on the crazy rides.” Bitty grabbed Jack’s hand.
“I think it’ll be fine. But, thank you.” Jack smiled down at him.
“No problem.” Bitty smiled back. They were pulled back into the main conversation as Chowder chose a category and took his first turn.
They tried the sports category, but all failed miserably when hockey was barely mentioned. Bitty made Jack do the pop culture one, just to hear his answers. Shitty kind of sucked in general, but it was hilarious to watch him try. Before they knew it, they were at the front of the line, and being seated in the coaster.
Bitty could feel Jack relax next to him as the ride progressed, and by the time they stopped, Jack was hollering and laughing. When they got off of the ride, he looked toward Jack. His hair was tousled by the wind, and he was still laughing. He looked so happy that Bitty couldn’t help but kiss him.
“So, what did you think?” Bitty asked as they began walking out of the building.
Jack’s eyes were shining when he looked at Bitty. “That was incredible!” He laughed again, and the whole group cheered.
Chowder did Disneyland with terrifying efficiency. He took them through the best rides, the best restaurants, and took them shopping when the lines for rides were at their longest. Jack and Bitty got matching mouse ears, and he got Lardo to take a picture of them kissing in front of the castle in them as the sun set. It was a beautiful picture, and Bitty knew he would cherish it for years to come.
At the end of the night, they ended up sitting at a table sharing a funnel cake before they headed back to the hotel.
“So, Jackaboy! How was it?” Shitty asked, chewing on a piece of cake.
“Chew with your mouth shut. Gross.” Lardo said. Shitty flipped her off, and the whole group laughed.
“It was fun. I didn’t think that I’d like the rollercoasters as much as I did.”
“None of us did.” Nursey chimed in. “Jack Zimmermann, adrenaline junkie. Who would’ve thought.” Jack just shrugged and grabbed some cake from the plate.
“I think we might’ve created a rollercoaster fiend,” Dex said.
“Jack, which one ended up being your favorite?” Lardo asked.
“Oh, Guardians of the Galaxy, for sure.”
“We’ll have to take you to Knotts next time you’re out here,” Chowder said, also reaching for some cake. “Supreme Scream is like that, but better.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Jack nodded.
Tired from the day, they sat in mostly silence after that. Soon, an announcement came over the speakers, telling them that it was midnight and that the park was closed. Bitty checked his phone to confirm.
“Hey.” He tapped Jack’s shoulder, who turned to look at him with an eyebrow raised. “Happy birthday.” Bitty smiled at him. Jack beamed down at him, and leaned down for a kiss.
“Thank you,” Jack said as he pulled away.
“Wait, holy shit, it’s midnight! Happy fucking birthday Jack Laurent Zimmermann!” Shitty shouted, leaning across the table to tackle Jack in a hug. Quickly, the whole group joined the off ice celly, wishing him a happy birthday as they piled onto him.
“Thank you, thank you. But seriously guys, we gotta go. The park is closed.” Jack smiled at them, before gently shoving them off. They all piled off, and Holster began singing happy birthday as they walked toward the exit. Soon, they all joined in, and Jack’s face flushed in embarrassment. When they were all in the van, they talked quietly among themselves.
“So, how does it feel to be 30?” Bitty asked, humming as Jack began to stroke his hair.
“It’s been pretty great so far.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“Seriously Bits, this was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Thank you for putting this all together for me.”
“Sweetheart, I would move mountains for you. This was nothing.” They pulled up to the hotel, and the whole group sleepily exited the car and made their way to their respective rooms. After one last happy birthday from everyone, Jack and Bitty entered their room.
“So, what’s on the agenda after we all get up?” Jack asked as they changed into their pajamas.
“Well, we’ve got breakfast reservations, and then it’s the beach. I got dinner reservations for the two of us, and I’ve got you all to myself from then on. I managed to get us an afternoon flight home tomorrow, so we can sleep in.” Bitty smiled at him.
“Sounds perfect.” Jack flashed him a smile in return. “I love you.”
“I love you too darling. Happy Birthday.”